Thursday, June 30, 2011

It's true... the 'punnier' it is, the 'brainier' you are!

Q: Why don't cannibals eat clowns?
If you are still scratching your head over this easy one, blame it on your brain. If you, as I expect many people to, got the answer to that one easily, you are very punny or at the least, your brain is wired to be receptive to jokes that involve wordplay.

Anyway, ST ("Cracking jokes", 30 June, page A28) reports that British scientists have uncovered how the human brain responds to jokes [but do non-human brains respond to jokes?].

They scanned the brains of 12 volunteers [Margaret Thatcher one of them? Control group, lor... "You think that joke about my handbag is funny? Take that!!"] and found that the reward areas in the brain light up to a much greater degree when processing jokes than when processing speech. This reward response increased in line with how funny the participants found the joke.

A: Because they taste funny!

So, if that's what you thought was the answer, your brain can both process jokes that involve puns and those that do not. One of the British researchers, Dr Matt Davis, said: "Mapping how the brain processes jokes and sentences shows how language contributes to the pleasure of getting a joke.

"We can use this as a benchmark for understanding how people who cannot communicate normally react to jokes." With that last remark, Dr Davis and his team members were off to "find out if someone in a vegetative state can experience positive emotions [translation: laugh 'inside' even if he or she is in a deep coma. Proof? Pants got wet? I guess the team's funders have deep pockets.]

Here's another cannibal joke...
Q: What happened to the foreign editor after he introduced himself to the head of a tribe of cannibals?
A: He got an instant promotion: he became editor in chief.

And here's a non-cannibal poser:
If one member of a team of synchronised swimmers drowns, do they all drown?

Last one...
Q: What do you have when you have two balls in your hands?
A: His undivided attention.

Which provides me with the excuse to show this mioTV ad:

One final note here. I've found that SingTel Digital Media's has interesting news articles. One of the two below, about the DBSS, makes one angry; the other -- about a computer gaming addict wanting to take "revenge" on his wife -- is worth a chuckle:

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

From credit card predators to smelly feet predatoes

There's so much news and other stuff that's worth highlighting everyday, both the serious and the offbeat. I'll divide today's posting into these two headings.

The serious

Credit card 'online' worries
Two ST Forum writers were recently unsettled by unauthorised attempted/approved online transactions involving their credit card numbers. In her letter on Monday ("Disturbed by credit card security breach," ST, 27 June, page A21), Ms Gan Siew Lian recounted how she had received in one day two text messages with the Verified by Visa One-Time Password (OTP). She alerted her bank, DBS, and told the customer service officer she had not made any online purchases.

She was assured that there were no records of purchases.

But two evenings later, she received another OTP text message. DBS then called and she insisted she had made no purchase. She then asked to have her DBS Visa card cancelled. She later called DBS again and found out that three unauthorised online transactions had been made during the week! She asked: How did DBS approve the purchases when the OTP should not have been known to the purchaser?

On Wednesday, Madam Khong Wai Fong related a similar [scarier, actually] experience ("Multiple fraudulent card transactions within minutes", ST Forum, 29 June, page A30).

She said that within the space of 16 minutes, she had received nine OTP messages in relation to her OCBC Visa credit card. Upon her call to the bank, she was advised to cancel her card at once, which she did. Eleven days later, the monthly statement she received showed not nine but 15 fradulent purchases totalling $4,470.79. She has since made a police report. She is also still waiting for the bank to refund the sum which she said had been deducted via Giro.

ST should have run a news story today about these unnerving episodes! It's a matter of public interest.

Realpolitik -- in the words of Nixon and Kissinger
Analysts are already debating the likely outcome of the US drawdown of its military forces from Afghanistan. Gideon Rose's article today ("Lessons from Vietnam for Afghanistan", ST, 29 June, page A29), trenchantly explains big power "cover their backsides" actions at the expense of buggered allies:

"In late 1969, faced with increasing domestic pressure to end the [Vietnam] war, Nixon and Dr Kissinger settled on a strategy to reduce the American role in ground combat while fending off a South Vietnamese collapse. They sought to walk away from the war, get American prisoners back and avoid formally betraying an ally -- something they believed would damage America's reputation. They recognised that their approach would leave the South Vietnamese vulnerable after the American withdrawal, but considered [it] an acceptable price to pay for getting out.

"They never said this last bit publicly, of course. But in private, they were more candid, as the White House tapes showed. During an August 1972 Oval Office chat, Nixon told Dr Kissinger:

'Let's be perfectly cold-blooded about it... I look at the tide of history out there. South Vietnam probably is never going to survive anyway... Can we have a viable foreign policy if, a year from now or two years from now, North Vietnam gobbles up South Vietnam?'

"Dr Kissinger replied that US policy could remain viable if Saigon's collapse 'looks as if it's the result of South Vietnamese incompetence. If we now sell out in such a way that, say, in a three- to four-month period, we have pushed President (Nguyen Van) Thieu over the brink... it will worry everybody... So we've got to find some formula that holds the thing together a year or two, after which... no one will give a damn.' "

Wen Jiabao -- is he a spin-doctor after all?
In my posting yesterday, the Chinese social critic Yu Hua made this remark: "In China, we can't curse our premier but we're free to curse the guy next door." Was his singling out Prime Minister Wen Jiabao intentional, considering that the Chinese premier has a public image of caring for the common people?

A Reuters article in today's ST muddies the water. Headlined "Wen Jiabao: 'Screen idol' or prophet of change?" (ST, 29 June, page A23) it noted that, on one hand, as Wen prepares to retire, his call for political reform, made many times in recent years, seems to have grown more forthright.

But for sceptics, his "hazy" words are a pre-retirement vanity project, burnishing his own reputation without venturing to achieve real change.

"This was screen idol Wen staging a performance in London [where he has been visiting]," said Mr Chen Yongmiao, a Beijing-based lawyer and online commentator.

But Mr Qiu Feng, another Beijing-based lawyer and commentator, said: "I think he [Wen] should be applauded. The Chinese political scene is very delicate right now. Different people want to take China in different directions, and Wen is the one (leader) who points in the direction I think we should take."

The offbeat

Toe-wrestling? You're pulling my leg!
ST ("Toe to toe action", 29 June, page A27) has this story from British newspaper The Daily Telegraph about hundreds of competitors headed to Derbyshire for the 35th annual Toe Wrestling Championship this week. The sport was invented in a Derbyshire pub in 1976.

As described, toe wrestling is similar to arm-wrestling [really??]. Contestants begin by locking right toes, then left, then right again. To admit defeat (de-feet?), a contestant has to call out, "Toe much!"

This year saw an epic battle between arch rivals "Predatoe" (Paul Beech) and "Nasty Nash" (Alan Nash). Beech won. Defending champ Lisa "Twinkle Toes" Shenton won the women's title. No small feat for these two winners, I'm sure. The contests were held in a custom-built arena called the "toedium". But of course. Here's a pic:


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The May 35th incident in China, or how to scale the Great Firewall of China

Yu Hua is an acclaimed contemporary Chinese writer and social critic. He recently wrote a marvellous article, "The spirit of May 35", which was translated into English and published in the New York Times. It has now appeared in Today (28 June). Here's the link to the article:

Some excerpts:

Why the term "May 35"
You might think May 35th is an imaginary date but in China, it is a real one. Here, where references to June 4th -- the date of the Tiananmen incident of 1989 -- are banned from the Internet, people use "May 35th" to circumvent censorship and commemorate the events of that day.

'Is there freedom of expression in China?'
Practically everyone has mastered the art of May 35th expression, and I myself am no slouch. I've had a go at broaching freedom-of-expression issues. I once posted an article referring to a talk I gave in Munich.

The post said: "I was asked: 'Is there freedom of expression in China?' 'Of course there is,' I replied. 'In any country,' I went on, 'freedom of expression is relative. In Germany, you can curse the chancellor but you wouldn't dare curse your neighbour. In China, we can't curse our premier but we're free to curse the guy next door."

Why it's OK to say you won't find many germs on Chinese leaders' fingers
On the concentration of power in China, I wrote: "In Taiwan I told a reporter, 'You need to wear gloves when you shake hands with politicians here, because they are always out canvassing and shaking hands with people. You don't need gloves on the mainland, because our politicians never have to press the flesh. You won't find many germs on their fingers."

Since the first remark seems to emphasise that everything is relative and the other appears to focus on matters of hygiene, both were posted on the Internet without incident. My readers know what I'm getting at.

I have always written as much as I please in the May 35th mode, and for that I have the fictional form to thank, since fiction is not overtly political and by its nature lends itself to May 35th turns of phrase.

Monday, June 27, 2011

EP, phone home

My disabled brother needed a new cellphone;  his present one, a Nokia, was getting wonky. He needs just a basic feature phone, no frills... it is essentially an emergency phone (EP).

I saw this "one-day special"ad in the papers: "Mobile phone $29 (Usual price $60). Limited to 100 sets only." Hmm, first come first served, I guessed. The store opened at 11am.

I got there at 11am. There was already a crowd. The mobile phone special was not the star deal, and the  crowd-catchers were items like the 32" HD LED TVs going for $448 (UP: $1,099; limited to 50 sets).

But I had a chance, because selection was by balloting and the ballot boxes were not closed yet. I filled in my details on the ballot slip for the EP. No more entries were allowed at 11.15.

The emcee was quite noisy but entertaining, like at a getai (road show, typically during the Chinese Hungry Ghost festival). He liberally used Hokkien words like "Huat, ah!" (very lucky) when winners came forward. One winner with part of his name Heng was told, "Wah, you very heng today" (roughly translated, heng also means lucky or fortunate).

The balloting process itself was transparent and open for all to see in the crowded storefront. There were several boxes, for the various items from the 32" TV to the mobile phone (the cheapest item). But all items were "oversubscribed".

Every paper slip was checked to ensure that the ballot box was not "stuffed" ie no one was allowed to slip in more than one entry (of course there were; but the store graciously allowed one of the "spoilt votes" to be counted in). Then, all the valid slips were put in the box again and the requisite numbers drawn, eg. 50 for the 32" TV. Later, if a called name did not appear, the emcee would declare "Going, going, gone!" and that person -- who might have gone to the loo to have a leak -- forfeited his or her chance.

All winners had to produce their ICs for verification! Hey, that's good; in my case, I was balloting for an EP. Don't pray, pray, system has to be squeaky clean, man.

But it all took a long time, and knowing the EP balloting was last, I wandered around the mall. I got back to the "counting centre" in time... a little past noon. I got the EP for my bro. I was number 24. The next queue was at the cashier's. When I finally collected the $29 phone, it was 12.30pm... time for lunch.

So, that was how I spent this morning. When I got home, I found -- from another ad -- that I could buy a Samsung no-frills cellphone for $38 (it comes bundled with a $8 prepaid SIM card) from a different store in a different location. No need to ballot for this one!

But, then, if I had known about it and bought this other phone, I would never have realised that there were so many people -- some in long-sleeves and tie, some in military or school uniform -- willing to spend an entire working weekday morning going to "vote" -- with their wallet.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Hair today, gone tomorrow... Brylcreem today, none tomorrow

At a press conference that Dr Tony Tan held last Thursday, someone said this about his trademark sleek combed-back hair: "Wah, he must use a lot of Brylcreem!"

Hmm, I always thought he used Tancho. Since no one has put that question to TT, we won't know which.

But it reminded me that when I had much, much more hair -- and jet black, but of course -- I did use Brylcreem (both the red and green container ones, though I now can't recall what was the difference) and I did try the Tancho gel, although I did not like it.

Brylcreem, like so many Baby Boomer-familiar household products that began life in bygone years, was first produced in 1928! There's even a 1998 movie called "The Brylcreem Boys", about British and German pilots interned in neutral Ireland during World War II. Why the title? Brylcreem was THE haircream of choice for dashing RAF pilots then.

Which probably helps explain this old Brylcreem TV jingle, which I found in Wikipedia:

Brylcreem, a little dab'll do ya,
Use more, only if you dare,
But watch out,
The gals will all pursue ya --
They'll love to put their fingers through your hair.

Brylcreem, a little dab'll do ya,
Brylcreem, you'll look so debonair
Brylcreem, the girls will all pursue ya,
They'll love to run their fingers through your hair.


What can I say about the lyrics above? Hey, I want my money back!

And here's an old Brylcreem ad (also found in Wikipedia... Note the phone: it "(b)rings" back memories too!):

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Walk, trot, canter and gallop... the race has begun

I had a long tiring day at work tonight, but I'll stay up to do this piece on the Elected Presidency issue.

Dr Tony Tan has now cast his hat into the ring (on Thursday, after his return from an overseas trip). How has he distinguished himself from the other candidates? Perhaps I should use the device of the cast of characters in a play (dramatis personae):

Dr Tan (aka TT), the PhD man: He is obviously the ruling party's preferred candidate, as well as the elite's. But credibility is the name of the game, and he -- alone among the candidates -- has made several decisions which I am sure were not done lightly. He has not only resigned from his party, he has given up key appointments; it would be as good as impossible to return to these positions should he fail to secure the EP.

He says his strongest suit is his deep knowledge of how the reserves are managed, and that will be important in his custodial role. But why should such expertise be important? If that is the case, should not there be an elected president but an appointed one?

And why is it important that he be seen as an "independent" candidate? He says challenging times lie ahead for the EP of the day in the next few years. But I don't see a change of government in that time, or for that matter, for a long, long, time. Bottom line: I don't get any clarity from or about him yet.

But I accept that he is a serious candidate, the front runner in the race, the mainstream media say.

Dr Tan (TCB), the medicine man: He has built up a reputation as a forthright man, popular with the ordinary folk. His oratorical skills are very good, so I expect him to leverage on that in the "electioning" ahead. He has the best credibility to claim the mantle of a "people's president". He too resigned from the ruling party. But netizens will be looking into, or have already started looking into, his past record as an establishment man. Even bets on him.

Mr Tan (TKL), the Speaker's Corner (Hong Lim Park) man: He is a colourful personality, and if he gets into the Istana, I am sure he will not be a dour president. But, again, netizens will want to know more about his past, especially since he too was a member of the ruling party. So, is he the wild card in the race?

Well, it looks like we have the name of the next president already. His name is... TAN.

Oh, there is one last person... the incumbent (SRN). It seems strange that he -- having served two terms -- has not made it clear yet that he will not be contesting. I don't think even the ruling party wants to see the precedence of an elected president who has served three (or more???) terms. So, is he the dark horse in the race?

Friday, June 24, 2011

The stranger and the monkey

I just love good "walks into a bar" jokes. Here's one:

A stranger walks into a bar in a small town just as the piano player, wearing dark glasses (but of course)  has finished playing a tune. The musician's monkey goes around the tables collecting tips in a cup.

But the stranger ignores the monkey when it comes to his table. The creature then squats over the stranger's martini, dips its testicles into the drink and scampers back to its owner. Irate, the stranger goes over to the man and screams, "Do you know your monkey just put his balls into my martini?"

The ivory picker coolly replies: "No, bro, but hum a few bars and I can probably pick it up."


This is the month of June, and April Fool's Day has long come and gone. But look carefully at the movie screening dates for this National Museum of Singapore ad below for its "Under the Banyan Tree Open Air Cinema" series which appeared in TODAY on Wednesday (22 June):

Below is the correct ad, in that newspaper edition today (24 June), showing the correct dates for two different movies -- one scheduled for today and the other for tomorrow (Saturday).

Postscript: I forgot to mark yesterday... it was my 222nd posting!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Were you satisfied?

They were in the local newspapers today (23 June)... unsatisfactory answers, that is. Were you satisfied with the answers given by:

Sim Lian Group, the developer of Centrale 8?

Did the developer say from the start that its over-the-top pricing of $880,000 for its top-end five-room units (we Chinese just love the number "8", don't we?) was just "indicative"? Anway, what the heck are "indicative prices"? Here's a good defintion, and it has nothing to do with property transactions:

The real issue here is a private developer had bid for 99-year state-owned land to build affordable middle-class housing under the HDB's Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS). Otherwise,why did the state not simply offer the land to build a private condominium which does not come with the income-ceiling eligibility? So, there is an implied social contract to keep prices affordable (albeit that's now subjective in the current heady property market).

The pricing climbdown was of course a dramatic one: $778,000! That brought the psf from $750 to $663. One writer to ST's Forum today echoed many people's sentiments:

"All flats on Housing Board land should be built by the HDB itself, as was the case in the past, so that they are affordable to ordinary Singaporeans. Any profit from HDB flats should belong to the citizens, not to a small group of private developers."

The handling by the authorities of the bomb relic in Sungei Kadut?

Now, the police spokesman says there is a "protocol" in dealing with bomb relics found on private property, and that this protocol was used in over 20 cases in the past six months alone, presumably without any glitches. Essentially, since the police does not have its own explosives disposal unit, it relies on the military's bomb experts to make a first assessment. So, if the relic is "safe for removal", call the private specialist contractors!

Netizens were not impressed by the official explanation. It "bombed" as an exercise in  PR. Here's what was voiced by netizens in one thread (on Channel NewsAsia!):

The police explanation did not say explicitly enough what I suspect was the real context: that if the discovery is deemed (a) a "relic" (b) it is safe for removal, then the military's limited number of bomb experts -- who must be on constant standby -- should, ideally, not be involved in what are typically the long-drawn steps needed to remove the item, even if it has been deemed safe (ie, inert).

On the other hand, a threat to public safety -- be it a relic that is still volatile, a current-stock item of "live" ammunition that has ended up in someone's backyard, or a device planted by, say, a terrorist -- will, I am sure, bring in the military's experts and their bomb-sniffing/bomb clearance robots super-pronto.

So, are there bomb jokes out there? Here's a good one from the philosophy book I recently read:

If you are getting on a commercial airliner, for safety's sake, take a bomb with you... because the overwhelming odds are that there won't be two guys on the same plane with a bomb.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What if water-scarce S'pore were to become food-scarce too? Should we eat...

I commented on what seems to be a resurgence of conservatism in American politics yesterday. Why is it important to watch if this is indeed the trend ahead of the US presidential election next year? Put it this way, at a time of a rising China, an inward-looking and even isolationist America is not good for us. The article below, "The Middle American Revolt", by a conservative writer, says a lot:


Moving on to the "politics of water", this segment of an interview in yesterday's ST (21 June) with a Canadian water expert who -- together with his wife, also a water expert -- had a discussion with Mr Lee Kuan Yew on the water issue, also says a lot:

[Mr Lee] is the only leader in the world who’s been interested in water [note: I daresay Israeli leaders think about water all the time too]. And we asked him: What, initially, got him interested in water? He said two things: One was that when he was a young man during the Japanese Occupation, the British blew up the Causeway to stop the Japanese from coming to Singapore. And below the Causeway was the pipe that was bringing water in from Malaysia [correction: from then Malaya]. So Singapore had only one week’s supply of water left and that made him realise how dependent they were on water from outside.
The second thing he said was that after Singapore became an independent country in 1965, the British High Commissioner came to see him and told him that the Malaysian prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman had told him that Singapore would have to do exactly what Malaysia wants, otherwise they would turn off the tap. So Mr Lee brought the best people in Singapore together and said, “Tell me how much rain falls in Singapore, and how much of it we can collect.” And from then on, he had three to four people in his office all the time to decide whether some development could go on or not, depending on the water used. – Canadian water expert Professor Asit Biswas, in an interview with The Straits Times (“Plumbing Singapore’s water story,” 21 June, page A21).
Singapore now gets its water supply from four sources:
* Malaysia -- as stipulated in two binding water pacts, one of which expires later this year (2011);
* Our own reservoirs and other local catchment supplies;
* Desalinated water, which was prohibitively expensive until recently (it still is expensive);
* Newater -- reclaimed water, including what we flush down the toilets but super-filtrated and ultra-treated until it is, ahem, drinkable.
Which brings me to my concluding item, something from today's Digital Life supplement of ST:
"On reports that a Japanese scientist has synthesised meat from human faeces...
I would rather go vegan than eat that. Jonathan Sze.
Excellent solution for Third World countries and [their] hunger-stricken citizens? I don't think I can stomach this... the very thought makes me want to barf! Jeanette Koh.
No way I will eat this! I don't mind mock meat made from soya, but not artificial meat from human faeces. Hamzah Darwi."    

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Right and left in American politics?

American politics is going to get more interesting, as Republican presidential wannabes jostle for media attention (in the Democratic camp, unless Obama goes gaga or something, he's the incumbent candidate come 2012). For now, the Conservatives in the Republican camp -- playing to the tune of the Tea Party-ists -- seem to hog the limelight. In the American context, what is a Conservative?
In vogue now is this cheeky lapel button, both funny and scary, which may well be apt, or it may just be a caricature, depending on one's political viewpoint: “I’m a God-Fearing, Gun-Toting, Flag-Waving Conservative the Liberals Warned You About”.
American Conservatives consider themselves situated to the "right" of the political spectrum. So, to them, American Liberals are to the "left". The most extreme of the American rightwing even say Obama -- their archetypal Leftie -- is a communist or socialist, or even a Muslim (isn't his middle name "Hussein"?).
The American traditional South (or Dixie) is said to be a bastion of the Conservatives. I have a T-shirt which, to be fair, is a spoof caricature of how (some?) Southerners see the map of "the United States of Dixie":

Meanwhile, ST (21 June) published a commentary "GOP debate reveals rightward drift" by James Zogby. It is a good piece that captures the current Republican (or GOP -- "Grand Old Party") mood.

But what's interesting, in the image above of the ST rendition, is that while the story is about the Republicans moving ever more rightward, the illustration has the GOP "representative" pushing the "Party" towards the left!

Monday, June 20, 2011

From 'how to bullshit' to 'how to raise kids' (just kiddin')

Word of the day: Locavore.

I thought this word above, which I came across only today, was an interesting portmanteau. Singaporeans, of course, cannot afford to be locavores... we'll die of hunger!

Relooking yesterday's posting, I thought about No 2 on the spoof list, "Great presentation skills: Able to bullshit." I wondered what the Internet would throw up. I found this (not to be taken seriously, of course) article on "How to bullshit":

The short article's intro is intriguing... "Knowing how to bullshit takes time to master. But with practice and confidence, you too can become a Class-A bullshitter." Go on, click on the link, and have a good laugh.

Final musing for today... I wonder if today's Singaporean parents are too hung up in trying to connect to their teenage children or to chart a preferred path for their young 'uns? There are so many "how to" questions about becoming the perfect parent. I was on the bus and I saw this poster outside Ngee Ann Polytechnic -- "Parenting Talk: What does your teen really want? Attack of the 'Me' Generation."

There seems to be a belief too in cause-and-effect actions. In yesterday's Sunday Times (19 June), one young man -- taking very seriously his role as the godfather (when he was just 21 years old) to a young boy -- said: "I have tried to cultivate musical talent in him by buying him a drum set." The boy's age was not given but the picture showed what looked like a pre-schooler.

On the other hand, my current Scripture readings have the theme of "messiness" in the various aspects of our lives. This is what the writer for one of the readings touched on:

My favourite book when I was pregnant was How Not to be a Perfect Mother by Libby Purves. Instead of setting out unrealisable ideals, it gave me a picture of real, fallible women doing their best to cope with real children.
My own firstborn did not keep to the rules of child development and, until he was given the diagnosis of Asperger syndrome (an autistic spectrum disorder), made us feel that we were useless parents. A friend with a child who also has Asperger's tearfully described the hostile reaction that she and her child received at their church when he behaved "inappropriately" (and she is the minister's wife!).

Sunday, June 19, 2011

What those terms on your appraisal report really mean

Some time ago, I came across this spoof Human Resource code for performance appraisal reports.

1. Outgoing personality: Always going out of the office.
2. Great presentation skills: Able to bullshit.
3. Good communication skills: Spends lots of time on the phone.
4. Work is first priority: No social life.
5. Active socially: Drinks a lot.
6. Independent worker: Nobody knows what he/she does here.
7. Quick thinking: Always offering plausible excuses.
8. Careful thinker: Won't make a decision.
9. Uses logic when given difficult assignments: Gets someone else to do it.
10. Meticulous attention to details: Nit picker. 
11. Exceptionally good judgment: Lucky.
12. Keen sense of humour: Knows a lot of dirty jokes.
13. Career-minded: Back stabber.
14. Loyal: Can't get a job elsewhere.
15. Plans for his/her promotion: First to buy the drinks especially when the boss is present.
16. Of great value to the organisation: Gets to work on time.
17. Relaxed attitude: Sleeps at desk.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

In remembrance of my dad, Khoo Ghee Tam

Ahead of Father's Day tomorrow, I'm dedicating today's posting to my late father.

My dad died in 1983 while in a coma from a stroke, when I was 32 years old. The hospital had called before sunrise, and I rushed there but I was not in time. But his body was still warm.

I recently found a Remembrance notice I had penned on behalf of the family, which appeared in The Straits Times' Orbituary page on 26 March, 1986. It read:

In Loving Memory of Mr Khoo Ghee Tam, Departed 26.3.83

Your presence is ever near us,
Your love remains with us yet;
You were the kind of father
Your loved ones will never forget.

Always remembered by beloved wife, children and grandchildren.

What do I know (apart from what were my memories) of my father? As I was the seventh of seven children, the early "blanks" about him were filled in by my siblings.

The son of a karang guni man, he could sell fridges to eskimos. That's how -- during the prewar years -- he got into Raffles Institution (and did well too), and that's how -- in those days! -- he secured a place in Anglo-Chinese School for brother No 2, How Tiong, because he could quote chapter and verse from the Bible although he also said the Holy Book was a great work of fiction.

I nearly never had the chance to be the happy result of the union of a sperm and an egg (ditto for my sister How Eng; we were both born after the Second World War). During the Japanese Occupation, the defiant side of him led him to bow less than obsequiousely to a Japanese guard at a checkpoint. The ****hole cracked my father on the head with his heavy wooden-butt rifle. Amazingly, my dad survived -- but only because he was wearing a hard safari hat.

Soon after the war, brother No 4 How Yong -- a toddler at the time -- got lost in teeming Chinatown. My father had started work at the Shell facilities on Pulau Bukom island, and it was some hours before he got to Chinatown. From the accounts told to me, he went around banging on some sort of improvised drum for days, yelling to all and sundry that he had a missing little boy (those were the days when someone could have easily taken away a lost child for adoption).

His persistence paid off. A woman told him where my brother was, and the then family of parents, one girl and four boys was complete again.

My own memories? These are snippets:

* I must have picked up my hunger to devour the newspapers from him. As a boy, I would watch him read the papers at breakfast, and I would ask him questions;
* It was my father who prepared breakfast for me when I was a boy. In those "pre-cholesterol" days, he firmly believed in at least an egg a day. Roti prata bought from the market was a treat;
* I may look erudite to some, but my father knew better... he called me "lazy to the bones" even till my secondary school days. He was right... I have the red marks (and ducks' eggs) in my report books to, er, prove it;
* But his love was such that, when I finally persuaded him to get me a tiny (600cc) Honda car when I got (amazingly) into university, many a night -- after I had come home from uni -- he would take the car out to the petrol station and fill up the tank for me.

* Apparently, the only movie he ever saw was one called "Fire Down Below" (no lah, it was not an X-rated one). It was said that he fell asleep soon after it started;
* Apparently, the only pop song he knew was one called "Seven Lonely Days Make One Lonely Week";
* He would scold me if I, er, crooned "House of the Rising Sun" while in the showers. He was adamant that he was no gamblin' man;
* A maxim he taught me was "Your wallet should never have cost you more than the cash you are going to put inside";
* Last but not least, he also told me: "Don't start looking for toilet paper only after you have shitted."

Happy Father's Day, my father. This song below is for you:

Friday, June 17, 2011

Sir Winston and George Bernard walk into a bar...

There's this psychology professor at Singapore Management University, Norman Li, who was featured in an ST report, "Money talks when S'pore women say 'I love you' " (Wednesday, 15 June, page A10). I am sure many people would have read this rather interesting interview report.

The part I want to touch on here is a question posed to him and his response. He was asked "How can a guy tell if a girl is interested in him?"

This is his reply: "If a girl laughs at your jokes, she's probably interested. I propose that humour evolved as a way to indicate interest. It's not so much that what you say is extremely funny, but if someone is interested in you, they will think you are funny no matter what you say."

Talk about a sweeping generalisation. The way to a girl's heart is through her funny bone?

Let's put it to the test. We'll use two famous gentlemen, Sir Winston Churchill and philosopher George Bernard Shaw.

Case 1: Sir Winston at a who's who social gathering
Mrs Braddock: You are drunk, Sir Winston, disgustingly drunk.
Sir W: Yes, Mrs Braddock, I am drunk. But you, Mrs Braddock, are ugly and disgustingly fat. By tomorrow morning, I will be sober.
Mrs Braddock: Hahahahahaha! (Norman Li theory confirmed). 
Case 2: Supposed encounter between a young woman and George Bernard Shaw
Woman: Mr Shaw, I want to have your baby. With my beauty and your brains, just think, our child will be a phenomenon.
GB: But my dear girl, suppose the child has my beauty and your brains? 
Woman: Hahahahahaha! (Norman Li theory double confirmed).
While looking for the Churchill anecdote, I found these other stuff:
Never be afraid to try something new. Remember that amateurs built the Ark, professionals built the Titanic – Anon.
When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bicycle. Then I realised that the Lord doesn’t work that way. So I stole one and asked Him to forgive me – Emo Philips.
If you can’t convince them, confuse them – Harry S. Truman.
Since light travels faster than sound, people appear bright until you hear them speak – Anon.
Before you criticise someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticise them, you are a mile away from them and you have their shoes – Jack Handey  (American comedian).
I am easily satisfied with the very best – Winston Churchill.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

From VIJ (very impt jaga) to VIP (very impt president)?

I had not intended to post something today on the issue of the Elected President (EP). After all, the big shots have all told us the EP's key role is custodial ("in case of emergency, break glass"). That was it.

Then Dr Tony Tan said some things (actually reiterated stuff he had said earlier) that made me wonder. Dr Tan, it should be noted, is a straight talker and minces no words.

It started when I saw ST's page one lead, which kicked off with Mr George Yeo announcing that he will not be a candidate for the EP post. Page one, certainly. But the lead story?

TODAY, in contrast, put its "George Yeo says he won't run for President" story as the page one 2nd lead and its lead story was, rightly so, "Unemployment at three-year low".

But it was reading the rest of the ST story that proved intriguing. Let me reproduce the Tony Tan portion here:

Former deputy prime minister Tony Tan, 71, did not rule himself out when asked recently about speculation that he might be running for President.
Asked again yesterday [ie Wednesday, 15 June] after Mr Yeo's announcement, Dr Tan, who is in the United States on a work-related trip for the National Research Foundation which he chairs, said: "I would like to reiterate that the next President's tenure is likely to see great change nationally (emphasis mine) and internationally. That is why this election is important.

"I will have more to say on the elected presidency when I return to Singapore next week."

[Last Tuesday, at a GIC press conference, he had read out a statement saying he was watching the political climate closely (emphasis mine), and that Singapore's next President would hold office during a period of "enormous change". He added that "it is more important than ever to have a President with a steady hand and a deep understanding of the complexities behind each decision the President may have to make."]

Reading all this in a new context was a wow moment for me. Yes, I would be all ears when Dr Tan returns next week!

He is talking about "great changes" ahead in the next six years, a very short timespan really. Internationally, tiny Singapore may have to tweak or even reset its security policies and diplomacy. But that's the job of the Government of the Day (Singaporeans just love acronyms... so is this GOD?).

Nationally, we just had a general election! And within six years, he expects a great change?

On top of this, the EP -- which everyone else is saying has very limited albeit very important executive power -- must have a steady hand and a deep understanding of the complexities behind each decision the President may have to make.

Is Dr Tan signalling that:
* The next EP has to be someone the GOD can really trust, and work with?
* The next EP will get more executive power? Goobye, VIJ, hello VIP?
* There may be a glacial move -- and I emphasise glacial; certainly not likely in the next General Election -- towards a hybrid parliamentary/presidential form of government?

If so, politics in Singapore is gonna be so much, much more interesting.


OK, too much serious stuff already.

* TODAY has this headline (page 3) which I thought was iffy -- "Home Minister vows to probe nude squats"
* ST, being a family paper, gave a straight-forward headline (page A4) -- "Malaysia investigates nude squat claims"
Note: using "look into" instead of "probe" in the TODAY headline won't help. It might make it worse!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Further reflections on the EP

By now, with all that inundation in the media -- including today's ST report and a commentary by Prof Tommy Koh -- we all know just what Singapore's Elected President (EP) can do and cannot do in his role as a gatekeeper, or, in Singlish, a jaga. OK, a VIJ -- Very Important Jaga.

In this important role, if no one tries to break into the house, the jaga may seem to have little to do but in fact he cannot afford to fall asleep on his watch, it is argued. He is the bulwark against a rogue government's machinations, be it tinkering with the reserves or tampering with the scales of justice.

He has also a diplomatic role, but how it is exercised, I think, depends on the incumbent. The present one has been a diplomat and seems to relish this role. But it is still a limited role and if the new EP is, say, uncomfortable with having to jet overseas now and then, I am sure he will be less active in this role. Our chief diplomats are still the PM and the FM. It is what they say when abroad that matters.

Finally, the incumbent EP has carved out a niche role as a promoter of charitable causes. But, as in the case of his diplomatic role, this is up to the EP of the day. I suppose the more active he is in this role, the more he is seen as a People's President.

Certain requirements ensure that no Tom, Dick and Harry will get the job.

But I think that, as more people know more about the job description of the EP, the less comfortable they will be with his (or her) pay being higher than that of the PM's (however the outcome of the ministerial salary review). I think the issue of how much our unique EP should be paid cannot be avoided.

It is somewhat ironic. We want someone who is wise and cerebral, knows the relevant laws of the land inside out (or can grasp these quickly and very well), is passionate about Singapore's destiny and is absolutely incorruptable, but who -- ideally -- has reached the stage in his or her life that material concerns (while not to be disregarded) cannot be a key driving motivation. Wah, everything also want, huh?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Some odds and ends...

Quote of the Day 1 (from New York Times)

"I can tell you that if it was me, I would resign. Because public service is exactly that, it's a service to the public."   PRESIDENT OBAMA, on sex scandal-plagued Democratic Representative Anthony Weiner.
Quote of the Day 2 (from Reuters)

"It was one of those grand prix where you are nowhere and then you are somewhere, then you are nowhere again and then somewhere. Fighting your way through the field is almost as good as winning a race... Amazing day, I don't know what to say. It's definitely my best race... I'll remember it for a long time." McLaren F1 driver Jenson Button, on his Canadian Grand Prix win on Sunday (Montreal time). He had to overcome a collision with teammate Lewis Hamilton, another collision with Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, five pit stops, one drive-through penalty, and having to start from the back of the pack! 


I've always wondered whether favourite cartoon strips can be contexted just in words minus the drawings and still capture the humour. Here's goes:

Jason (to his mom): Check out the giant Lego piece I made out of Legos.
Mom: That's really clever. It's like something you'd show in a modern art gallery...
You could present it as a meta, ironic statement about the futility of humankind's perpetual quest to elevate ourselves beyond our base nature vs societal constructs...
It's brilliant! All it needs now is a good title.
Jason: How about "The first of many pieces for the full-sized Lego star destroyer I want to make?"
Mom: A little too ironic. How about "Brick No 1 in Gray."

Get Fuzzy 1
Satchel (the dog): Do you ever wonder why the sky is blue?
Bucky (the cat): Because it would look stupid orange.
Satchel: But what about yellow, or --
Bucky: Yellow? Annoying.
Satchel: Even green, maybe. My point --
Bucky: Green? Satchel, all the junk down on the ground is green! You wanna paint me green too, tough guy?
Satchel: No, I just mean, like, do you ever wonder about the big stuff?
Bucky: Like elephants,? No.
Satchel: No, I mean like why we are HERE?
Bucky: Because Rob's too cheap to buy a condo!
Satchel: No, like... OK, here's one: Why are we here on this planet?
Bucky: The moon doesn't have snacks, dipnut!
Satchel: But why do we even stay on the ground? Why aren't we floating all over the place?
Bucky: All our stuff is down here, man.
Satchel: You're not very philosophical, are you?
Bucky: No, I'm full-O-knowical, thank you.

Get Fuzzy 2
Rob's dad: Yo, what's going on?
Satchel: Bucky's been trying to beat me up.
Bucky: He offended me.
Rob's dad: How did he offend you?
Satchel: Yeah, how? I didn't say anything to you.
Bucky: Satchel, Satchel... I'm not so close-minded that I require words to be offended.


Finally, here's a pair of tags to my earlier posting on the Doggiestyle Cafe...
*What the owners should never say to a prospective employee: We've got this position just for you.
*What a prospective employee should never say: Is this position still available?     


Monday, June 13, 2011

Such a 'can-do' spirit!

This is a story of Singaporean true grit.

It appeared in today's ST's prime news, page A8 -- which meant a reader had to read stuff on seven earlier pages. I thought it would have been better to use it as the first page of the Home section pullout.

The story by reporter Mavis Toh, part of the package "One year after Kallang slashings..." and headlined "The doctor said I'd never do push-ups. I proved her wrong", picks up a year after 20-year-old full-time NSman Ang Jun Heng was set upon one night by a gang of eight robbers along a dark footpath (three other men were separately attacked, one of whom died).

In the savage and senseless attack on 29 May last year, Mr Ang -- a trainee in the elite Naval Diving Unit (NDU) and a former captain of Raffles Institution's canoe team -- was hacked in many places and had half his left palm cut off. Some slashes missed his spinal cord by a mere 0.1cm.

He lay bleeding for seven hours before help arrived. A 27-hour operation reattached his palm but two fingers had to be amputated later when gangrene set in.

Downgraded to a clerk (I presume at the NDU) after the attack, Mr Ang could have accepted his seeming fate of not resuming his athletic life. But he fought to complete the basic diving course -- going through all but the rope climbing component (the gruelling course comprises diving, swimming, running and circuit training).

"I was also exempted from push-ups but I thought why not try, and when I could do it, I was so happy," he said. The effort was important to him because a doctor had told him he would never be able to do push-ups again. "I also thought 'Doctor, I proved you wrong'. "

He is still well-built, exercises regularly, rows with some ex-canoeing mates, and can do chin-ups using a special hook. He is now considering a transplant to make his left hand more functional. The procedure will remove two toes from his left foot and attach them to his left palm.

The operation would help him to type with both hands on a keyboard, get a driver's licence, and give him a shot at achieving his childhood dream of becoming a pilot. The straight A student will head for an overseas university after he completes his NS next February. I am sure this young man will achieve all that he sets himself to do!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

'We shoot film, not people'

Idiom of the Day: "To shoot oneself in the foot"

It's summer camp season in America and lots of teenagers need to have something to do. The organisers of one such camp hit on a great idea: teach the teens video-production skills. How about a creative title for the module? That's when the organisers shot themselves in the foot.

The title they okayed was "We shoot film, not people"! (Remember, this is America, where guns go off in unexpected ways, often with tragic consequences.)

As reported in yesterday's Washington Times (11 June), the county in Maryland state where the furore erupted already has more than 50 homicides this year. An official within the agency responsible for the programme acknowledged the title did seem to be insensitive.

He said: "The flier went out very prematurely before being approved...". The five-week module was, er, targeted at teens aged 13-17.

Creativity gone ballistic, huh?


On a different note, I'm giving myself a little pat on the back for what I thought was a creative intro (introduction) I wrote for a Sunday Times report (12 June, page 3) about Singapore recording the lowest number of marriages since 2007.

The original intro in the copy was a straightforward one. A flash of inspiration came to me and the intro became: "Cupid was a lousy shot last year -- it was a dry year for marriages."

Such moments give me great satisfaction.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Labour chiefs bound for world meet

It's back to my favourite pastime... corny stuff:

A man went to see his psychiatrist. He said, "I keep repeating these two words, 'tepee, wigwam' over and over again." The doctor, just as nutty, pondered for a while, then exclaimed: “Aha, I got it! Too tense.” [from Angie]
A shoplifter  was caught with a stolen calendar. She got 12 months. [from Liane]

Two loitering youths were caught by the police late one night. One was drinking battery acid, the other was eating fireworks. The police charged one and let the other off. [from Kim Ann]
A hole was found at one part of a wall surrounding a private nudist colony. Police are looking into it.
A bungling thief was caught red-handed, blue-handed, green-handed, etc. He had tried to burgle a paint shop at night and he stumbled into some opened paint cans.
Doctor, doctor. I think I’m at death’s door. “Don’t worry, I’ll pull you through.”
The little boy was telling lies again. His mum warned him: “Another lie, and I’ll make you eat your words.” The liitle boy started: “Ice cream, fries…”
... and from today's Straits Times (11 June, page B9), this double entendre headline:
"Labour chiefs bound for world meet"
[Guess these union guys must have hated to go there... venue was Tripoli, Libya?] 

Friday, June 10, 2011

The EP -- standing up for Singapore

So, who wants to be the Elected President (EP), with an annual salary of $4 million-plus (as it now stands, before the pending salary review)?

Apart from his role as a diplomat, the EP has a clearly defined role in the political system here, says former Senior Minister S. Jayakumar, who was involved in the crafting of the legislation for the EP.

As quoted in Today (10 June, page 4), Professor Jayakumar said: "Some of [the] statements [of aspiring candidates] seem to imply that the President is a centre of power and to himself distinct from the government of the day and implies he has certain executive powers. This is not the case."

Prof Jayakumar said the EP does have some discretionary custodial powers, mainly in the protection of reserves and key appointments, and some custodial powers in ISA [Internal Security Act] detentions, CPIB [Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau] investigations and Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act restraining orders.

But even in those few areas (emphasis mine), the President has no power to initiate decisions or policy. He only has blocking powers. In all other areas, the President under the Constitution must act on the advice of the Cabinet, Prof Jayakumar added.

Meanwhile, in a commentary on the EP's role (8 June, page A2), ST's Deputy Political Editor Lydia Lim used this analogy: "Think about the soldiers who stand guard at the Istana's main gate. Unless something out of the ordinary -- such as a fight or a fire -- breaks out, their job is to stand guard and not move from their post.

"That this is unusual is borne out by the curiosity that children display around such sentries, because they are not used to seeing someone stand so still for so long while other people are rushing about doing things."

Well, the incumbent has been doing this unusual job for the past 12 years (two terms), a long-standing stint, eh? So, who gets to have a crack at it next? We will know by August.            

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Revisiting the impossible dream of the $2 COE

Yet again COE prices for cars have shot through the roof (disclaimer: my car is still new, seven months old, so I'm not looking for a new one).

Hey, people, it's possible to beat the COE system because the LTA has built in the means to do so. It's like the political system -- it's possible for the opposition to capture GRCs because the designers, while not making it easy, did not make it impossible to do so.

It is the people's own fears (and kiasu/kiasi mentality in the case of the COE system) that has made "beating the odds" seem so insurmountable.

COEs in any category can actually be secured for $2, yes, $2.

[For non-residents: In Singapore, one has to bid for a Certificate of Entitlement (COE) before one gets to buy a car. The cost of this COE and vehicle taxes make cars here very, very expensive, depending mainly on the COE which in turn ostensibly depends on supply and demand factors.]

I will not go into the details of why I say $2 COEs are possible, since my earlier posting (3 Nov, 2010) has done that. In this posting, I just want to point out that it requires potential/aspiring new car owners to really understand how COE bidding works, and to organise themselves into an interest group perhaps via social media (initially at least; the motor firms will then come around when they see that it also benefits them to have stable, low-cost COEs).

OK, briefly, $2 COEs are possible because the minimum bid sum is $1. But the way the system is designed, assuming everyone bids $1, all the COEs go to the next round since there is no price-setter.

You need a price-setter: the $2 bidder, or, as is the case now, the guy (or guys) who bid such that he/they and all others who bid at and above this magic sum get the available COEs.

The suckers are those who bid below this magic figure, and this figure can be $2 or $2 million or whatever.

Right now, everyone (meaning typically the dealers who bid on behalf of the buyers) work on the kiasu/kiasi mindset, or "beat the other guy to it". So, if a dealer thinks most bids will be around $50,000, he will try to bid above this figure (the actual permutations are more nuanced, but this is the gist of it) for his customer. How "above" depends on these options.

To secure $2 COEs, the mindset has to change, with some kind of people-driven (haha, my pun) initiative to take a queue number for successive rounds of bids.

Come on, you'll eventually get your new car, even if you wait several months -- for a $2 COE!

Say, there are 600 Category A COEs for this coming round. People must organise such that there are only 601 bidders. The "sucker" is the $1 bidder because he does not get a COE this round. But the people-driven initiative must be made such that this sucker gets to bid $2 the next round and someone else becomes the sucker.

In this round, then, exactly 600 people bid $2, become the price-setters and get their COEs. Or, if you wish, only one person bids $2. The other 599 can bid anything from $3 to everything they own, including the kitchen sink. All will still get their COE at $2.

Just as important, car loans will be manageable, which means the losers are the banks and other lenders. You wanna sympathise with them instead?

Detracters will claim that $2 COEs mean that car resale prices, now affected by much lower tax rebates, will be much lower. This is true but was this not the case before the COE system was introduced?

And the authorities still get to keep the overall car numbers in check, albeit at much lower tax revenues. But the people benefit, right?


Postscript: Thanks to "Anonymous" for that comment -- "Is there a back door?" -- with regard to yesterday's posting. It's a good one!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Doggone it... a double entendre!

Doggiestyle Cafe? That's what the ad said, on the backpage in Today (8 June).

So I texted this to some people: "Amazing... there's a Doggiestyle Cafe here!"

Here are some responses (plus my replies to some of them):


Where (pant, pant)?

Where are u and where is it?
Me: Haha, you won't get me there. It's in the BACK page of Today.

Hmmm got kittycafe or not?
Me: Never heard anyone say they do it kittystyle!
Hahaha!!!! Probably involves a lot of scratching n biting!!

And they let dogs run around there?
Me: I suppose they let humans run around there too.

U mean for dogs? 'It's a dog's life' no longer means what it used to.


I wonder if the cafe's owners know there's a double entendre in the name. To find out what Doggiestyle Cafe really is, here's the link:

This other link below gives more examples of double entendres:


Finally, here's some daft definitions:

Diarrhoea: Out of body experience
Constipated: Enbloc(k)ed
Constipation medicine: Blockbuster.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Letting go without letting go?

I'm glad I've been slogging through the papers I missed while on vacation. There are interesting stuff I wouldn't want to miss.

An intriguing commentary piece was penned in The Straits Times by China bureau chief Peh Shing Hui on June 1 (page A2). Headlined "China misreads Singapore model", his thesis was that (a) the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) -- after flirting with various political/economic models, continues to find the Singapore "one-party" model attractive; (b) however, the Singapore model is not quite what the CCP leaders would like to think it is, as the recent "watershed" general election showed, ie, the rule of law here ensures a "greater plurality of voices" than the CCP would want China to have.

Hmmm. As Zhou Enlai (who died in 1976), when asked to comment on the 1789 French Revolution, reportedly quipped, "It is too early to say".

The Chinese model may well turn out to become more democratic; if so, only after great turmoil. The Singapore model is still a work in progress, and it is "too early to say" how it will proceed.

But I like a recent cheeky Noose episode (the Ch 5 programme that aired Tuesday nights) that featured a "visit" by North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il to Singapore to learn how to "let go without letting go".   

Monday, June 6, 2011

Gone fishing?

The good thing about being on an 11-day cruise is that you get to tell jokes at dinner, provided your dining companions are not Jews, Protestants, or Baptists. This is because:

Jews do not recognise Jesus;
Protestants do not recognise the Pope;
Baptists do not recognise each other in the liqour store.

During the cruise, I was reading a book on philosophy and jokes, essentially how they can actually explain each other. The book's two authors gave a further twist to the familiar joke above. This is their corollary:

If you go fishing with a Baptist, he will drink up all the beer;
If you go fishing with two Baptists, you get to drink up all the beer.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

There's always a first time...

I'm back!

Still somewhat jet-lagged and with a pile of newspapers to catch up on (something I always do post-vacation), so just one short real-life anecdote here:

Lufthansa Flight LH329 from Venice to Frankfurt had been uneventful. Upon touchdown at Frankfurt, as expected once the seatbelt-on light went off, passengers (at least us cattle-classers) scrambled off their seats to grab their bags from the overhead bins and to "chope" aisle space.

All facing forwards, we waited, and waited.

Then the voice of the captain came on via the PA system: "Ladies and gentlemen, we seem to have a slight problem. The ground staff do not seem to know we have arrived."

Very understated German humour, I must say. He went on to explain that he was still trying to sort matters out. Finally, after about 20 minutes -- with fidgety passengers fretting about their connecting flights -- we were told a shuttle bus had arrived, and that it was parked at the plane's rear.

We all turned around, to leave the aircraft in a most unsual way. On my way out, I could not resist telling the two smiling crew members at the steps leading down: "This is the first time I'm doing it from the back!"

So, what does Lufthansa stand for? How about this: Locate Us, Frankfurt Terminal! Hurry, And Not Stand Around.